Egypt 'constitution panel on track'

2012-04-05 11:08
Cairo - The head of Egypt's constitutional assembly says the committee will forge ahead with its work despite appeals from liberals, Christians and others who walked out in protest against the Islamist domination of the panel.

The walkouts are angry that the Islamist majority parliament appointed a panel that they say is not representative of minorities and other political factions. More than 20 panel members who withdrew, including a representative of Al-Azhar, the prestigious Sunni learning institute, and Christian representatives of the Coptic Church, demand the panel be totally redrawn.

The makeup of the 100-member panel, which currently boasts 60 people affiliated with Islamist groups, is a highly contentious issue in the country. The new constitution will determine whether Egypt leans toward more conservative Islam and whether the decades-old system that concentrated power in the hands of the president will be maintained or replaced by an empowered parliament under an Islamist majority.

Liberals and secular-minded Egyptians, who fear an Islamist-dominated committee will write an Islam-inflected constitution, say a new charter should be written by a broad swath of Egyptian society and not by a parliamentary majority.

Saad el-Katatni, the head of the panel and a leading member of the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood that dominates parliament, said the walkouts have until Tuesday to consider a proposal to replace members of the panel from a list of reserves already selected by lawmakers.

"This is a committee that was formed and elected to work," he told the meeting in comments broadcast live on television Wednesday. "We won't hold up its work, and we will continue our path."

Islamist panel member Nader Bakkar said the proposal is to replace 10 members from a reserve list of 40 people. If the walkouts don't return, reserves will be used to fill all the walkouts' seats.

Ahmed el-Naggar, a committee member who pulled out, rejected the proposal, saying reserve members are predominantly Islamists, and that the suggestion doesn't address the walkouts' fundamental complaint — the panel's lopsided composition. He also said religious institutions, such as Al-Azhar and the Coptic Church, were underrepresented.

Number of walkouts

"Islam has become what it means to the Brotherhood and the Salafis only," he said.

Egypt's Islamist groups, including both the Brotherhood and the ultraconservative Salafis, make up nearly three-quarters of parliament after sweeping the vote in the first elections since the uprising that ousted longtime President Hosni Mubarak last year.

Some Islamists on the panel say the number of walkouts is insufficient to call for its dissolution and the creation of a new panel from scratch, while others contend that an elected Islamist majority is entitled to dominate the process.

Critics counter by saying that the new constitution's legitimacy could be threatened if the views of those who are boycotting the process — representatives of minorities, women, religious institutions and political factions — are left out.

With so much at stake, some liberals and secular-minded Egyptians who have at times been critical of the generals who took power after Mubarak's ouster have urged the military to simply dissolve the constitutional assembly and name a new panel.

That idea was put to rest Wednesday by Major General Mamdouh Shaheen, a member of both the ruling military council and the committee, who said the military won't intervene or meddle in the constitution-writing process.

"The panel doesn't need interference from the ruling military council or anybody. We reaffirm this and we will protect it," Shaheen told the panel.

Some members of the panel who attended Wednesday's session called for the committee to be redrawn to prevent the crisis from spiraling out of control.

"The Egyptian people must be convinced," said Sherif Abdel-Azim, a member of the panel. "This is dangerous for the future of Egypt."

Read more on:    hosni mubarak  |  egypt  |  north africa

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.